Three trends for the packaging, processing industry in 2017

The packaging and processing industry is becoming more automated with more companies being bought out and a greater focus being put on eco-friendly packaging.


Image courtesy: CFE MediaThere's a lot happening in the food and beverage industry, and November's Pack Expo in Chicago proved that. There are many changes occurring in the industry and three major trends, in particular, are on the horizon for the packaging and processing industry that will have a major impact:

  1. The entire packaging process is being automated
  2. Large conglomerates are buying up smaller vendors
  3. Eco-friendly packaging continues to be a large focus (especially in beverage).

So what do these trends mean for food and beverage processors? Let's unpack them.

1. The entire packaging process is being automated

Automation has grown exponentially in food and beverage plants everywhere, but a world where packaging and processing lines are 100% automated from beginning to end isn't far in our future. In fact, that's already the case in some places.

We're seeing the shift from human to robot across every conventional touch point in a facility, including:

  • Depalletizing
  • Unpacking
  • Primary, secondary and tertiary packaging.

Human intervention is slowly being replaced with machines that can accomplish the same tasks with a few taps of a touch screen.

One area where this is becoming more common is in quality control inspection. For example, take bottle filling, which typically involves inspection of incoming materials and inspection of the final product post-filling. Previously, workers had to take a bottle from the line, inspect it, and release it. Now that can be done online and in-line, effectively taking the human interaction out of the process. Thanks to automation, bottles can be inspected as they're being filled.

Some view this shift to mean less jobs on facility floors, but it's also increasing the demand for more specialized workers to operate these automated systems. The growing prevalence of automation is making packaging and processing lines more efficient.

2. Large conglomerates are buying up smaller vendors

Another developing trend involves a strategic avenue some businesses are taking. A number of big companies are getting bigger by purchasing smaller, more specialized vendors. Having a wide array of offerings and machinery allows these companies to provide a variety of services under one umbrella.

While this means fewer small companies, it benefits food processors looking for a one-stop-shop. One example is the Kentucky-based packaging machinery company Pro Mach, which could have multiple pieces of equipment that one original equipment manufacturer (OEM) might not have.

So what does this mean for food and beverage processors? If they're building, expanding or renovating a facility, a bigger one-stop-shop can speed up your project. A larger supplier could provide the various equipment required, integrate them and deliver them within a short time period—often in half the time compared to sourcing from multiple vendors.

3. Eco-friendly packaging continues to be a focus (especially in beverage)

For some time now, the beverage industry has been exploring ways to make packaging more environmentally friendly, and that effort is continuing to evolve. Priorities include:

  • Making bottles lighter
  • Reducing cap size
  • Encouraging recyclability.

It's not just the big players anymore, either. It seems everyone is trying lightweight packaging in 2017. Not only can eco-friendly packaging reduce your company's carbon footprint, but it can sometimes save money as well. While going lightweight can often be a win-win, you have to be smart about it.

Sometimes reducing primary packaging weight can force users to increase their secondary packaging to ensure the product can safely withstand the environment in storage and distribution. There's a lot of ways packaging can get beat up in these environments.

-Cord Unbehaun is a packaging engineer at Stellar. This article originally appeared on Stellar Food for ThoughtStellar is a CFE Media content partner.

The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America. View the 2017 Top Plant.
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
Each year, a panel of Control Engineering and Plant Engineering editors and industry expert judges select the System Integrator of the Year Award winners in three categories.
SCCR, 2018 Maintenance study, and VFDs in a washdown environment.
Welding ergonomics, 2017 Salary Survey, and surge protection
2017 Top Plant winner, Best practices, Plant Engineering at 70, Top 10 stories of 2017
Product of the Year winners, Pattern recognition, Engineering analytics, Revitalize older pump installations
Control room technology innovation; Practical approaches to corrosion protection; Pipeline regulator revises quality programs
The cloud, mobility, and remote operations; SCADA and contextual mobility; Custom UPS empowering a secure pipeline
Setting internal automation standards
Knowing how and when to use parallel generators
PID controllers, Solar-powered SCADA, Using 80 GHz radar sensors

Annual Salary Survey

Before the calendar turned, 2016 already had the makings of a pivotal year for manufacturing, and for the world.

There were the big events for the year, including the United States as Partner Country at Hannover Messe in April and the 2016 International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago in September. There's also the matter of the U.S. presidential elections in November, which promise to shape policy in manufacturing for years to come.

But the year started with global economic turmoil, as a slowdown in Chinese manufacturing triggered a worldwide stock hiccup that sent values plummeting. The continued plunge in world oil prices has resulted in a slowdown in exploration and, by extension, the manufacture of exploration equipment.

Read more: 2015 Salary Survey

Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
The One Voice for Manufacturing blog reports on federal public policy issues impacting the manufacturing sector. One Voice is a joint effort by the National Tooling and Machining...
The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.
The maintenance journey has been a long, slow trek for most manufacturers and has gone from preventive maintenance to predictive maintenance.
This digital report explains how plant engineers and subject matter experts (SME) need support for time series data and its many challenges.
This digital report will explore several aspects of how IIoT will transform manufacturing in the coming years.
Maintenance Manager; California Oils Corp.
Associate, Electrical Engineering; Wood Harbinger
Control Systems Engineer; Robert Bosch Corp.
This course focuses on climate analysis, appropriateness of cooling system selection, and combining cooling systems.
This course will help identify and reveal electrical hazards and identify the solutions to implementing and maintaining a safe work environment.
This course explains how maintaining power and communication systems through emergency power-generation systems is critical.
click me